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November 27, 2014, 6:28 pm
Scribe's Thoughts on Phil Hughes
There’s no FA Cup in cricket. Plucky amateurs like Nomads 1st XI never get to take on elite teams in a competition. But we do, at least, get to regularly play with/against professionals, and occasionally play with/against the genuine elite in our plucky amateur league. As such, we tend to feel connected to the professional game in a way that amateur football clubs don’t to Premier League footballers.

Throw in a regular flow of overseas players in both the amateur and professional game and there are few players in world cricket of whom we can’t say that we “know someone who knows him”. I think it is that connection that makes the news of Phil Hughes’ death so upsetting. Though I never met the lad, I surely know several people that knew him. And by all accounts he was a friendly, cheeky, humble chap, as well as a prodigious talent.

In cricketing terms we all remember his arrival on the scene as the incredibly exciting unorthodox Aussie natural who smashed it through the off side and backed away to thump it straight. England fans loved it when the results didn’t quite hit the high notes for a while, but it appears he was coming back hard about to re-emerge into the Test side. It was all to play for. But with his talent threatening to fully bloom, the book ended several hundred pages early; with him stuck on a highly promising 63 not out. A symbolic score really - he’d already done enough to say his innings was a notable success, but he was likely to go even further.

I personally love that cricket has its dangerous edge. I love the intimidating side of the game. I love the trepidation of facing an aggressive fast bowler, partly because of the fear of getting hurt, mainly for the fear of getting out; but dragging myself out to the middle of what can be a genuinely hostile place to be, purely for the challenge of it. No other sport offers that particular feeling of isolation and intimidation. I love seeing my teammates intimidate opposition batsmen, even hit them. My favourite dismissals I’ve witnessed have involved Carl sconning people on the lid/body/forearm before the ball barreled on into the stumps. Hell, I even quite like getting hit. I parade my bruises to my Mrs as undeniable proof of my masculinity and bravery. I’m absolutely certain her resolute claims that they don’t impress her are wild nonsense.

But any thin veneer of macho bloodlust is rapidly punctured by any actual injuries. We all want our fast bowlers to hit the oppo in the lid. Right up until they actually do. At which point we hope to God they’re okay. And they usually are. In fact the risks of severe injury are low. The most serious injuries I’ve seen are cumulatively self-inflicted by bowlers in their delivery stride. Phil Hughes’ injury was absolutely freak. The physical side of cricket will, thankfully, remain physical, intimidatory, occasionally painful.

So this loss seems so pointless. What on earth do we learn from this? Nothing of consequence about cricket; we’ve known forever that the ball is hard. We’re left with a sense of shock and profound sadness for Phil’s teammates, friends, loved ones and family. And poor Sean Abbott who, through no fault of his own, is now tasked with carrying a pretty sickening burden.

While there may be no immediately apparent greater good to come out of this seemingly pointless tragedy, it is at the very least a reminder of the fragility of our lives. And any reminder to savour the fleeting time we have is always worth heeding.
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